chinese dipping sauces

A Brief Guide on the 6 Essential Chinese Dipping Sauces

One look at the Ocean Palace’s menu, and it’s easy to see why sauces hold such an important place in Chinese cuisine. Indeed, the different types of sauces impart unique flavors to these dishes and take them to the next level.

Now, it’s understandable if you aren’t familiar with these sauces. There are quite a few of them, some of which are used exclusively in Chinese restaurants. If you want to familiarize yourself with these sauces, then we have just the thing for you. 

Here’s a brief guide on six essential Chinese dipping sauces that you’ll most likely encounter in Chinese restaurants!

Hot Chili Oil

Hot chili oil is made from vegetable oil that has been infused with chili peppers. In essence, any chili pepper can be used to make hot chili oil. The type and number of peppers used in making this sauce can lead it to vary wildly when it comes to its spiciness. It would be best to try a little bit of the oil first to see how spicy it is before using a lot of it all at once. While it can be used on its own to add a little kick to noodles and other types of dishes, you can also add it to other sauces to make them spicier. It’s mostly used with soy sauce and other hoisin-based sauces.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce has been used in Chinese cooking for over 1,000 years. This classic dipping sauce is a staple in Chinese restaurants, as it is served with dim sum dishes and is used together with vinegar, ginger, and chili oil. What’s great about soy sauce is that it offers a lot of savory umami flavor all while being incredibly versatile. Essentially, you can tweak soy sauce according to your specific taste by adding in other condiments!

Sweet and Sour Sauce

The sweet and sour sauce is one of the most popular Chinese sauces, and it can even be found in many non-Chinese restaurants as well as being prominently featured in Chinese American cuisine. The sweet and acidic flavor profile of this sauce pairs well with rich and succulent friend dishes. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, and fish are crowd favorites in modern establishments.

Plum Sauce

Plum sauce, or more popularly known as duck sauce, is made of plums, apricots, sugar, and spices. Similar to the sweet and sour sauce, the plum sauce is often used with fried dishes like egg rolls and spring rolls. Plum sauce got its nickname as Westerners initially thought this sauce was served with Peking duck.

Hot Mustard

Speaking of sauces for egg rolls, hot mustard is also a Chinese restaurant mainstay. But how is this different from regular mustard? Well, the flavor profiles are the same but as the name suggests, hot mustard has an added kick to it. Like mustard, hot mustard has a crisp and tart flavor that shoots straight up your sinuses. 

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is a thick sweet sauce that’s usually served with Mandarin pancakes, Peking duck, and Mu Shu pork. All of these are classic Chinese dishes that are popular in Chinese restaurants in Beijing. Its flavor, like plum sauce, is sweet but without the tartness, and this is why many people are often confused by the two sauces!


Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the many wonderful and tasty sauces in Chinese cuisine. Keep this guide in mind the next time you find yourself in a Chinese restaurant so that you can get the most out of the experience.

If you’re looking for a Chinese restaurant in Houston, then you’re at the right place. Ocean Palace Chinese Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant serves the best dim sum in Houston. We have a huge selection of snack-sized portions of different types of dim sum for you to enjoy. For a complete list of our offerings, check out our menu and order from us today!

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